Carrie Underwood loves listening to boy bands and rock groups when she works out. I know this because I’m doing burpees alongside the country star as “Everybody” by the Backstreet Boys plays in the background — part of a playlist curated for Underwood by her longtime personal trainer, Eve Overland, who’s instructing us to jump up, down, and up again. I’m breathless between reps. Underwood, meanwhile, seamlessly bounces from her yoga mat while singing along to Nick Carter.
Underwood may still be best known for her Grammy award-winning music career, but her love for fitness isn’t far behind. A quick Google search for Underwood’s workout secrets reveals pages of exercises inspired by the Cry Pretty singer (and her famous legs), while videos show her working out in a mobile gym trailer. That passion could be why, unlike other celebrity-backed athleisure brands that have crowded the space over the last few years, CALIA, the athletic apparel line Underwood launched with Dick’s Sporting Goods in 2015, has been so successful.
According to Dick’s, CALIA is the store’s third highest-selling women’s brand, after Nike and Under Armour. While much of it has to do with the fact that Underwood is the brand’s most influential model — she frequently shares photos of herself in her gear with her 9 million Instagram followers — Underwood and her co-lead designer, Alycia Scott, believe CALIA’s success primarily has to do with the clothing’s inclusive fit and style.
“Our fit works on so many different body shapes,” says Scott during a presentation of the latest collection in Aspen. “And if your clothes don’t fit and feel good, you’re not going to wear them.”
As she walks a room of influencers and editors through the pieces she helped design, Underwood stresses that CALIA was created for women who want to feel good during their workout while “keeping everything where its supposed to be.” You’ll find cropped tops, sure, but they won’t be “too cropped,” says Underwood. “We call it a meet and greet,” Scott says, smiling and describing it as a way to show off while still being functional to work out in.
I sat down with the singer, entrepreneur, and mom of two to discuss where she finds inspiration when designing pieces, how her fitness philosophy has changed since her 20s, and why she doesn’t believe in making New Year’s resolutions.
There are a lot of other athletic wear brands out there right now, but CALIA seems a bit more modest in certain ways. Why is that so important to you?
CU: We look at fashion and we look at the things that are fashion forward and we want to implement them into what we’re [making], but we want to do it in a way that takes you through your day. That’s kind of who we are and who we want to represent. We want you to look good and feel great, but we’re not into pushing too many envelopes. We’re for women who are just trying to “stay the path.”
Speaking of, how did you come up with CALIA’s slogan, “Stay The Path”?
CU: In the beginning, we talked about what our mantra is, what we’re about, and we basically came up with that because it’s wherever you are [in life.] It’s not telling you where you should be or what you need to do. It’s like, find what you want, your own personal goals, get on that path, and do your best to just keep moving toward your goals.
As a co-lead designer, do you get to test everything first?
CU: I do! I get everything first and sometimes, I’ll post something [on Instagram] and realize it’s not out yet and fans will ask me where to buy it and I’m like, “Ah, sorry! It’s not out yet.” Eek!
And when you’re testing the products, what kind of fit are you looking for?
CU: I like things to stay in place — I don’t want to be hiking my pants up every five seconds. We try to stay up with technology and antimicrobial and wicking materials and things like that, so they’ll be functional as well as fashionable.
Aside from fit, CALIA is known for its prints, designs, and colors. Where do you get your inspiration?
CU: We get together and have meetings quite often throughout the year and talk about what the trends are. We have people fly to various parts of the world — they’re going to different trade shows and they’re looking at different fabrics and they’re seeing where the trends are headed. I’ll bring in pictures every once in a while of a shirt my friend was wearing or something I saw in a magazine and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I love this detail — how can we make this CALIA?”
Has your fitness philosophy changed since you were in your 20s?
CU: Definitely. When I was in my early 20s, before kids and before all this, I was working out to look good. Now that I have two kids, I want to work out because it makes me feel better throughout my whole day. If I can sneak in something small — even a 20-minute workout — I am a better wife. I am a better mother. I am a better friend. But also I look at my kids — I want to set a good example for them.
I talk to Isaiah, who is almost 5, about healthy eating. I say, “No, we shouldn’t have all that candy right now — let’s have this instead, because it’s better for you and I want you to grow big and strong.” I want to be around for them for as long as possible — and not just in years, but in good years. I want to know my grandchildren, my great-grandchildren.
Is that why you follow a plant-based diet?
CU: I’m always vegetarian. 1,000%. Most days, I’m vegan, but I’m not hardcore vegan. I kind of felt like I didn’t want [meat] and I didn’t need it, and I love all the furry little babies.
We’re in a new year and a new decade, and with that comes goals and resolutions. Do you make any for yourself? Are you a resolution type of person?
CU: I usually don’t — I take things as they come. I have no clue exactly what the next year or decade is going to hold. I just want to keep doing what I do and enjoy life and watch my babies grow. We’ll see what happens!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.